Haunted Little Rock: Ghastly Death of Civil War Martyr David Owen Dodd


David O. Dodd (1846–1864) was only 17 when he was hung on January 8, 1864, in Little Rock by the Union forces after having been convicted of being a Confederate spy. A large crowd numbering in the thousands had gathered in front of St. John’s College to watch the young man, a boy, really, being hung by the neck that day. David O. Dodd’s death was more ghastly than any of the crowd had anticipated it would be, causing grown men to turn their faces away and women to weep. Also, the ghastliness of his death might be one reason why some people say the ghost of Dodd still roams the haunted city of Little Rock to this day.

There are a multitude of ghosts that are said to haunt Little Rock and the entire state of Arkansas, for that matter. Quapaw Quarter, in downtown Little Rock, is reportedly one of the most haunted areas of the state. There are many houses there dating from the 1830s to the 1900s, several of which are reputed to be haunted. People have stated that they have seen ghostly carriages passing by along the road, as well as ghostly pedestrians and even horses.

One other reason why the area is reportedly haunted and is teaming with spirits is that the Mount Holly Cemetery is located there, the final resting place of the wife of the Cherokee chief, John Ross, six Confederate generals, governors and other politicians. Visitors to the haunted cemetery have reported seeing apparitions and statues moving, as well as hearing the ghostly strains of a flute playing. Trinkets have been found on the tops of some of the graves, as if placed their by some supernatural means.

David O. Dodd is one of the people buried at the historic haunted cemetery. Like many of the others, though Mount Holly was meant to be his final resting place, people have spotted seeing his ghost both in the cemetery and at the Little Rock Arsenal.

David was a clerk for Philip and Brothers sutlers, serving the 43rd Illinois Infantry, and was travelling with a pass issued by the Provost Marshall to the town of Camden. If any Union soldiers saw him, he was supposed to present the papers to the soldiers to verify that he was allowed to be out and about. About eight miles from the town, Private Daniel Olderburg stopped himand asked where he was headed .

Olderburg told Dodd that he had no further need of the pass because his outpost was the last one on the road to Camden. After he took the pass, he tore it up later that day.

After spending the night with an uncle, Washington Dodd, David O. Dodd wanted to cut a little bit of time off of his journey onward to Camden, so he made a detour closer to Little Rock, within Federal lines. A Union party out foraging saw him and asked for his identification, but Olderburg had taken and destroyed his pass.

Dodd was placed under arrest and searched. While in Little Rock, a telegrapher examined a notebook he had on him and stated that two pages of it contained a message in Morse Code. Dodd was accused of being a spy and a traitor and he was placed on trial.

Though David O. Dodd pleaded not guilty to the charges leveled against him, he would not name the person who reportedly had furnished him with military information. He did admit to using Morse Code to detail the make up and location of Union regiments and artillery units but he denied being a telegraph operator.

On a frigid afternoon on January 8. 1864, a crowd assembled in front of St John’s College at Little Rock to witness the hanging of 17 year old David O. Dodd, who was convicted of spying against the U. S. He was met near the gallows by Maj. Gen. Frederick Steele who ordered him: “Tell me who aided you in getting your information or you will surely die.”

While the young Dodd’s information about the cavalry was accurate, his details about the other units was not, according to Adjutant George O. Sokalski. The number of soldiers was also not mentioned in the Morse Code on the two pages.

The trial lasted four days and the verdict was a guilty one. General Steele sentenced him to hang and denied appeals for clemency that were made.

The Union soldiers reportedly did not have a handkerchief with which to tie around Dodd’s head and eyes. David offered up his own to be used for the purpose.

The Union soldiers did not have a suitable rope and used a new one, which had too much give and stretchiness to it. When the gallows trap door was sprung, David O. Dodd’s toes touched the ground as he dangled there and took five full minutes to die of strangulation. It was a ghastly way to die, as far as such executions went, and the onlookers were horrified. Some of the Union soldiers became ill watching the hanging.

David O. (Owen) Dodd’s body was buried in a donated grave in Little Rock at the Mount Holly Cemetery. An eight-foot monument made of marble marks his grave. The is a marble scroll close to the grave that describes him as being a “Boy Martyr of the Confederacy.”

Witnesses who claim to have seen the ghost of Dodd at the haunted Mount Holly Cemetery and elsewhere in Little Rock have not stated that the apparition scared them, but seeing a ghost of any sort must have been a shock to them. The ghastly way the teenager met his death and his refusal to name names made him into a hero and a martyr of the Confederacy. Dodd’s ghost is one of many which is rumored to have escaped the confines of his grave and is frequently seen in the haunted city of Little Rock, Arkansas.

Many other cities across the United States are reportedly haunted. New Orleans is one of them, as well as Chicago, New York City, Branson and Las Vegas, Nevada. Future articles will focus on these and other haunted locales across America. Until then, pleasant screams!

Written By Douglas Cobb

The Encyclopedia of Arkansas History & Culture
Civil War Family.us

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